Proposed Boston Commemoration Commission Moves Ahead

While the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution coming in 2026 and the 400th anniversary of the founding of Boston in 2030 will undoubtedly attract much fanfare, City Councilor Kenzie Bok is proposing the creation of the Boston Commemoration Commission to continue to promote inclusivity in celebrating the city’s history.

“I’d love for us to be the city in America doing the best job grappling with its history and showcasing it, said Councilor Bok, who was previously a historian by profession, during a virtual meeting sponsored by the City Council Committee on Government Operations on Tuesday, Oct. 19, to discuss the city ordinance she filed proposing the creation of the Commemoration Commission.

According to Councilor Bok, the goals of the commission would include working on a timeline that, besides the two aforementioned upcoming anniversaries, would include other important anniversaries in the city, especially those celebrated in the indigenous and black communities; creating an education curriculum that would entail taking a closer look at the city’s archives and teaching a more inclusive history curriculum in Boston Public Schools;  updating the city’s tools, such as the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s Article 85 demolition to delay to potentially save historically significant structures in the city; and staging future events that drive attention and tourism to Boston by promoting one of the city’s strengths – its rich history.

In her ordinance, Councilor Bok outlined a list of more than 30 potential committee members to be appointed by the Mayor with approval from the City Council, including stakeholders representing tourism-related Boston businesses, members of various neighborhoods and communities in the city; nonprofits; experts in various immigrant and LGBTQ histories in the city; a member of the National Parks Service; and representatives from the Boston Public Library and various city agencies, as well as a City Councilor appointed by the mayor, among others. The committee would also comprise various subcommittees, which would include, but not be limited to: Events and Trails; Timelines, Exhibits, and Curricula; and Legislation and Preservation Tools.

City Councilor Ed Flynn voiced his support for the proposed Commemoration Commission.

“I support trying to bring people together to tell the important history of Boston and celebrate the immigrant roots in Boston, some of which have never been told,” said Councilor Flynn, who added he believes the commission could provide an opportunity to bring people together and unite neighborhoods across the city, as well as to potentially create a “pathway for young people to study history and our immigrant roots.”

David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library, said he endorsed the process moving forward, while Joe Bagley, the city’s archeologist, also expressed his interest in serving on the commission.

Thomas Green, vice president of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, also said he wanted to be the spokesperson for his organization on the commission.

“I want to bring history of Massachusett tribe to the many people who don’t know about the Massachusett, and want to bring to light historic events, as well as other indigenous group that have been marginalized” said Green.

Councilor Bok said she is encouraged by the positive reception that the proposed Commemoration Commission has so far received, and that the language, as well as specifics of the proposed subcommittees, would likely be hammered out during an upcoming working session.

“Timelines will catch up fast,” she said. “We want to move thoughtfully, but swiftly, to get things going.”

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